Llama Llama Red Pajama author Anna Dewdney had one final request before she died at 50 on Sept. 3 after a battle with brain cancer. The children’s book author and illustrator didn’t want a funeral. Instead, she asked fans to celebrate her life by reading a book to a child.
This last wish was in keeping with Dewdney’s lifelong mission – educating children. The author, beloved by toddlers and adults alike, is best known for her heartwarming Llama Llama books – a series that has sold a combined total of 10 million copies.
Before she became a full-time author, Dewdney was a daycare provider and teacher. She always believed that reading was one of the best ways to relate to and foster empathy in children.
“By reading with a child, we are teaching that child to be human,” wrote Dewdney in a 2013 op-ed for The Wall Street Journal about the importance of reading. “When we open a book, and share our voice and imagination with a child, that child learns to see the world through someone else’s eyes.”
Dewdney’s Llama Llama series is such a hit with tiny fans that Netflix is creating a new animated show based on the books. Jennifer Garner will voice the Mama Llama character in the series, which will premiere in 2017.
Since Dewdney’s death, readers, fellow authors and friends and family have found special ways to remember her.
“The entire Penguin Young Readers family is heartbroken,” said Jen Loja, president of Penguin Young Readers, in a press release. “And as we grieve, we also celebrate Anna’s life, in dedicating ourselves to carrying forward her mission of putting books into as many little hands as possible. We will miss her so, but consider ourselves so lucky to be her publishing family and her partner in her legacy.”
And what a legacy is is.
In her Wall Street Journal op-ed, Dewdney urged adults to “sit down, put a child on your lap, and read a story.”
“Have fun. Read in character and use funny voices … laugh and cry. Be human, loving, and strong, and that will allow the children in your care to be human, loving, and strong,” wrote Dewdney. “Perhaps, the next time those children feel like hitting or pinching someone, they’ll hold off and ask for a hug from you instead.”